A League-initiated bill would require full funding to reimburse local governments that comply with the mandate to continue health insurance benefits for public safety officers injured—and for dependents of those killed—in the line of duty.
(Published Feb 13, 2017)
A bill that would provide full reimbursement to employers for complying with a costly mandate has been introduced in the House. Initiated by the League of Minnesota Cities, HF 1009 (Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville) would require an annual general fund appropriation to fully compensate local units of government for the cost of continuing health insurance benefits for police officers and firefighters injured in the line of duty and for dependents of those killed in the line of duty.
In fiscal year 2016, the requests for reimbursements topped $4 million, but the state provided just $1.67 million for that purpose. Under the current law, employers are reimbursed on a pro-rated basis.
The bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee, where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. The Senate companion will be introduced in the coming days.
Minnesota Statutes, section 299A.465 requires public employers to continue health insurance benefits for firefighters and peace officers injured in the line of duty and for dependents of those killed in the line of duty. When the law was enacted in 1997, it contained a provision requiring the state Department of Public Safety to reimburse employers for the full amount of administering this benefit.
By 2002, the fund created to provide this benefit became deficient. Instead of increasing the fund, the 2003 Legislature amended the law to pro-rate reimbursements to cities based on the amount available and the number of eligible applicants. The 2003 law change triggered a significant and unanticipated cost to cities. The cost has increased every year for cities, and the funding for the account has never been increased.
In 2015, the Legislature expanded the health insurance benefit to include survivors of volunteer firefighters who die in the line of duty. This change increased the number of firefighters eligible for this benefit from 2,000 to 20,000—without increasing funding for the reimbursement account.
If your city has experience with this issue, please relay that to your legislators and urge them to support HF 1009. If you would be willing to submit written or in-person committee testimony on this issue, please contact LMC staff member Anne Finn at (651) 281-1263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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